The United States' NATO allies have agreed to meet eight specific U.S. requests that will contribute to any military response to last month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson says NATO approval of the requests demonstrates the allies' commitment to support the fight against terrorism.
Washington's 18 NATO allies have agreed to share intelligence on terrorist threats, open up their airspace to U.S. military overflights and give U.S. forces access to their airfields and ports. They will also provide extra security for U.S. military and diplomatic facilities on their territory and replace any U.S. troops that might have to be moved out of the Balkans.
The move comes after NATO formally invoked article 5 of its founding treaty, which regards an attack against one ally as an attack on all. NATO says it took that step after Washington provided it with conclusive evidence that the terrorist attacks originated outside the United States and that alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network were involved in them.
Mr. Robertson says the allies agreed to take the eight measures individually and collectively to give the United States more options in the campaign against terrorism. "The requests that have been made are deliberately framed and in a broad sense because the United States of America has not yet decided how it will respond," he said.
Mr. Robertson also indicated that he does not expect NATO to be directly involved in any collective military action, saying the United States can choose how it wishes to respond militarily to the attacks. "It is, of course, open to the United States to act on its own under article 51 of the United Nations charter or to do so in association with any other group of states or coalition of states," he said.
Diplomats at NATO believe that, if the United States asks for more assistance from the allies, it will do so on a bilateral basis so as to avoid the sometimes cumbersome consensus seeking needed to gain the formal support of the alliance as a whole.
One request made to NATO asks the allies to help nations facing increased terrorist threats as a result of their support for the campaign against terrorism. But Mr. Robertson refused to name any specific countries. "It is a statement of solidarity and a recognition that there may well be problems for those who have the courage and the commitment to take a stand against this form of international terrorism," said George Robertson.
NATO officials say the quick approval by the allies of Washington's wish list is a strong signal of support for the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.